"Our primary subtype has a powerful effect on our relationships. We bring all three of our instincts into our relationships, yet one of these is central. Over the past 30 years of Enneagram work, many people have found that subtype in a primary relationship is more important than personality type itself when it comes to daily life. There are many decisions and habits in living together that are shaped by our instincts and emotions. How do we manage our time and attention, and how does this fit with our partner’s subtype? What are our expectations, personal habits, and rhythms of coming and going? Who cooks and cleans? Who initiates physical contact and how much? How do we include friends and family, or not?
The first thing that needs to be said is that all subtype combinations work! Just as all type combinations can work. So there is no easy answer to the question of “What types or subtypes together make the best relationship?” . . . If you have loved more than one person in your life, more than one type, you know the truth of this: having a successful relationship is more a function of self awareness and inner work. The Enneagram subtypes help us understand what we’re working with in ourselves and the people we love."
With that said, here are some very interesting articles I found on how subtype combinations tend to play out in romantic relationships, as well as advice and positive aspects of each combination.
Self-Pres with Self-Pres
Self-Pres with Social
When two Self Pres types are in relationship, there is a tendency to get over involved with material security and/or living the “good life.” They can easily fall into a routine where all their time and attention is spent in the home or working toward financial security. Extended family relationships also draw attention. And as all parents know, children take up a huge amount of instinctual and emotional energy. What’s left over? Not much if life is stressful, which it often is. Of course Self Pres people are well equipped to meet this challenge, the most sturdy of the subtypes in living life fully in the material world.
But even with abundance two Self Pres people may collude around a shared point of view and resistance to venture out to the larger world or invite others in: “Life is good, we have what we need here, and there are plenty of things to keep us busy. Why bother with other people who aren’t part of our immediate family?”
There’s nothing wrong with a focus on self preservation activities. But in this marriage or partnership, the question is whether these priorities reflect or accommodate the possibilities for individual development and connections with others, or whether they are used to create a comfortable cocoon which stifles personal and relational growth. We all know couples like this who seem very stuck at times. All their (off-work) focus is on shopping, buying and preparing food, home projects. They withdraw from social participation, take few or no risks, don’t try out new things. Without an influx of new or broader ideas and activities, there’s a quality of inertia and stagnation (not unique to Self Pres types). However, this may not be apparent to the couple if the legacy of their family histories is limited to achieving a satisfactory home life. For those interested in personal growth (and the Enneagram), the question now is: “What else is important?”
Appetite is one way to look at this, and while food is not the only component, it’s a good example of the need for discernment. How much time and energy goes into preparing food and eating, and for what purpose? In its higher aspects, cooking is a way to express care and nurture; it can even be a meditative and centering experience. We all benefit from this contribution by our Self Pres friends and family members. The warmth of the kitchen, the enjoyment of eating meals together, supports harmony and family connections. But are the cooks and shoppers staying “present” or are they overdoing it, perhaps falling asleep in the middle of this necessary human activity? It can easily become a substitute for direct contact with oneself and others.
One-to-one intimacy will suffer from spending all one’s energy on self preservation activities. With two Self Pres types in relationship, it’s easy for the “necessities” of life to expand to fill all their time. One of the big issues is that there’s not much energy left for sex. And there may also be hidden resistance to intimacy underneath this. Why aim for one-to-one contact, with it’s own set of challenges and vulnerabilities, when you can feel more confident in your area of strength? In my counseling practice one suggestion that I have made to Self Pres couples (among others) is to get into bed together, before becoming exhausted, and hold the intention of having sex. There’s no guarantee that things will work out, in fact the longer it’s been, the more issues or resistance that will come up. But it’s guaranteed that if you don’t get into bed together and “go for it” that nothing will happen. People of all subtypes, but particularly Self Pres types, can avoid physical intimacy waiting for the “right” feelings and motivation to appear. But in our busy lives, this can be a very long time, if ever. What do you need to do to show up and be available for intimacy?
At the same time it’s important to recognize that these couples report having the experience of intimacy in simply being together, sharing the activities of home life and often raising children (a deep path in itself). While perhaps lacking excitement at times, this style has the quality of quiet satisfaction and nurture in companionship.
Suggestions for two Self Pres types in relationship:
• Take time for one-to-one relating with your intimate partner or close friend. Practice your ability to just sit there, or lie there, without getting up to do tasks. Practice building a charge in your body (deep breathing will help) and becoming more focused on the interaction between you and your partner. Energy follows attention. You may need to invest some time and effort to achieve a strong one-to-one flow.
• Risk discomfort by inviting other subtypes into your circle and try on their style of relating. Or step out to participate in new activities and groups with different people. Meet them on their territory. Give yourself time to get used to this; allow for some anxiety or not feeling that you fit in.
• Pursue intentional spontaneity – schedule challenges and outings or stir up the fires. Honor and support your partner in risk-taking, trying on new activities or friendships, and meeting their needs as an individual. Avoid demands (or indirect body reactions) that seek to keep them solely within the family boundaries.
• Be aware of how you may be reinforcing each another’s anxiety about security issues. Establish some conscious practices that help reduce anxiety, such as physical exercise, play, or meditation.
• Explore what it means to be part of family and how this influences your decisions. Take time for your own interests and communicate boundaries when necessary.
What are the blessings and strengths of this pairing? They excel at creating a nurturing and secure home base from which life can flourish. When people feel cared for and safe they are better prepared to take risks, expand into the world and engage a path of development. Borrowing from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when food and shelter are handled, higher level needs and potentials can take center stage. The Self Pres couple can focus together on shared goals, accomplish those goals, and from a place of abundance reach out to people and the world around them. They provide leadership for schools, neighborhoods, recreational activities, and social programs (like feeding and housing the poor) that are the backbone of thriving communities.
Home is the center and the refuge, but not a hideout. One positive aspect of this shared focus is that it often works very well for children (maybe for little kids better than older ones), who need stability and predictability in their home environment. At their best, when two Self Pres types are working and living well together, there is a feeling of great generativity and an expansive life force.
In the Rider Tarot deck, the ten of cups card is a beautiful example of Self Pres harmony. Under an arc of light, a couple stands side by side to survey their peaceful realm, with the kids playing nearby. This vision is understood by people everywhere, although with different scenery or crops, more or less children, etc. For Self Pres types, it may be seen as the ultimate goal. Many of us are attracted to this domestic (or pastoral) ideal, whatever our subtype. With this abundance in material well being and family, the Self Pres couple can well afford to turn toward one another, to face each other as lovers, and invest in their one-to-one relationship.
Self-Pres with One-to-one
Here is a couple with distinct subtype styles that can both complement each other and generate problems. The Self Pres person will usually focus on being in the home, or working hard to make money to support the home and family. The social type is not against this, but will put more attention into looking out to the world and the many possibilities for social involvements. These interests do not have to be mutually exclusive, but over time conflicts may arise. How much time will a couple spend together in the home and family environments, and how much time with friends and social groups?
What seems vital and necessary to one partner will not necessarily be convincing to the other. There is a clear difference in styles. Social types prefer more structured activities; even their conversations will have a more structured flavor, as in staying with a particular topic to establish areas of agreement (or to define the areas of disagreement). To them, Self Pres types may seem dispersed in their attention. By contrast, Self Pres people may regard the Socials as rigid in their way of talking and strangely uninterested in the urgent matters of daily life. “Why so concerned about things that are not central to the security and well being of the family? Why so invested in matters that are beyond our control? Why do they matter so much when we have more pressing matters close at hand?”
Self Pres people often complain that their social partners are always leaving home (and the relationship) to do things with friends or organizations that they are committed to. “Why do you have to go out yet another evening this week?” Social types from their side of the instinctual Enneagram may find their Self Pres partners boring, or limiting. “You don’t want to join me in the world or meet new people.” Social types may regard their partners as too selfish, narrowly focused on their own preservation needs, and unwilling to share themselves and their resources. This is not the only kind of conflict that comes up, although it’s one that can lead to quite a bit of accusation and blaming.
Paradoxically, sometimes it’s the Self Pres partner who seems more socially expanded, with friends and neighbors coming and going, lots of dinners and gatherings that are focused on good food, or kids, or crafts. The social partner may seem very stiff and reserved by contrast, resisting situations that are not “properly” organized, or that do not seem to hold enough meaning. As with any cross-type pair, there are plenty of opportunities for embarrassment when one partner acts “inappropriately” or refuses to connect with people that the other partner values. How many of us have felt the need to explain the behavior of our partner to friends or family?
Speaking of family, the Social type is much less likely to be interested in spending time with extended family members, especially if it’s all about Self Pres activities and conversations. Many a Self Pres has felt wounded or rejected by their social partner’s intolerance or outright refusal to participate. Another common complaint from the Self Pres partner is that the Social type won’t help out enough at home. Whether one person works outside the home, or both, it’s usually the Self Pres partner who wants and needs to prioritize a warm and secure home environment. Or rather their way of achieving this creates expectations and demands that the Social type may find burdensome. Self Pres people generally like to do things in the home, but even they can feel that it’s too much work to do themselves. So where is the partner when it comes to cleaning, gardening, cooking, laundry, home repair? These are not exactly a priority for social types, and communicating about this can be fraught with peril. If, as often happens, the Self Pres person doesn’t speak up until there is anger and resentment, it’s predictable that the social partner will become defensive and go on to denigrate and devalue these activities. “How can you be so concerned about the cleaning and the repair when there are so many more important issues?” The Self Pres may be indignant, or worse, that their partner is not attending to things that are vital for security and well being. They can become agitated, anxious, and threatened if the “basics” are neglected, or if their partner seems to be using up resources (time, money) that should be conserved for the marriage or family. (These may be well-founded concerns indeed!)
The Social partner may not be good at explaining that for them, social participation, group membership and friends are key ways to establish a different kind of security in the world.
Social types can get very frustrated by their partner’s reluctance to participate in organized groups which provide meaning for them. Surely they can just go out and leave their partner at home. But ultimately, if there are not compromises in this regard, the couple can polarize and draw apart. When two people stay busy in completely different directions, they will both end up feeling neglected.
The Enneagram teachers at our 2005 conference also suggested that Self Pres people are more resistant to change than the Socials. (This was reported by the Self Pres group!) It may be true that for many Self Pres types that security issues make them more cautious, “better to conserve what you have than take new risks,” whereas Social types gravitate towards a wider range of new activities in the world. However, the generalizations are not always true; many Self Pres people are interested in larger, global and humanitarian issues and are very capable of providing leadership. And let’s not forget the dauntless spirit that enters the self preservation arena at Self Pres Four. (Socials can look like real “stick in the muds” by comparison).
Bringing friends and groups into the home can be another area of conflict. Self Pres people can be very welcoming and generous about sharing their home, but they like to be prepared and do it in a way that works for them. Extended family is one thing, but Self Pres partners may not be so enthusiastic about opening their doors to people they don’t know. Spontaneity in terms of sudden surprises or short notice is not usually appreciated. It feels like an intrusion. It takes more time for them to adapt, and they naturally take on more responsibility for caring for people. “What about food, who will cook, is the house clean, how much time and attention will be expected of me?” The Social type may say, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll just eat whatever’s around, it won’t take much work, the house looks fine the way it is.” This does not go over well!
Suggestions for the Self Pres type:
• Notice your resistance to leaving your comfort zone. Join your social partner in outside activities when it’s important to them.
• Try to be flexible about trying out new activities or groups. Prepare ahead of time by thinking about the goals of the group, how to enter the circle, in what ways you may feel anxious or uncomfortable, how you can support yourself. What will you do if people don’t seem warm enough or welcoming enough?
• Support your partner’s need to have friends and activities outside the home or family. Don’t expect her or him to spend all their time in family or extended family activities.
• Find social issues or causes that you are willing to discuss with your partner. What are the topics of interest to him or her? Gather information about these so you are well informed. Don’t expect her or him to educate you about these.
• Realize that your partner won’t entirely share your priorities for home or family activities. Be prepared for discussion and perhaps disagreement, and avoid taking it personally. Explore your needs and pick what is most important, then ask for help or companionship with those. Let the other stuff go.
• Loosen up on your standards for entertaining or feeding guests. Remember that not everyone expects your complete attention as a host. People can enjoy your home, and your company, without great meals. Work on staying relaxed with people rather than spending all your time cooking or cleaning.
Suggestions for the Social type:
• Give your Self Pres partner time to adjust to new ideas and activities – their first response may not be the final one. Help them navigate new social gatherings; provide support and guidance about the structure and resist criticizing their behavior or different style of connecting. Respect their limits and don’t expect them to accompany you all the time.
• Your Self Pres partner may be more willing to join you at events and organized groups if they know when you will be leaving. Of course just as you are getting into the swing of things they may want to return home to the nest. This can feel limiting, but at the same time there are benefits: you are less likely to over-extend or stay out later than is good for your health. Conserving your energy may be a good thing! One possibility is to take two cars, or arrange a ride, so you can each decide when you’re ready to go.
• Be more self reliant; don’t expect your Self Pres partner to take care of everything for you at home. Take responsibility for at least a few housekeeping or family business tasks. Remember to appreciate your partner for their self preservation productivity and how it contributes to your well being.
• Understand your partner’s different priorities, and honor their need for a “sanctuary.” Don’t simply treat your home as an extension of social space. Let them know ahead of time if you want to bring people into the home. Allow them personal time and space; don’t disturb their personal belongings.
• Close the “doors” and spend time with them in home based activities. Help them feel secure and supported in the material world. Be sympathetic to their experience of anxiety even if you think it’s unfounded or unnecessary.
Suggestion for both:
• Make an effort to schedule one-on-one time and focus on your intimate relationship. Let go of other compelling interests and tasks during this time.
With different styles and resources, this couple has many ways to complement and support one another. The social partner is able to bring their beloved into the larger world and participate in organized groups. Self Pres types are not always shy, but they don’t “know the ropes” for being part of and organized group and will feel supported by the partner when care is taken and acceptance, rather than criticism, is given. Here is the opportunity for social expansion, a bigger view of the world, and exciting opportunities for meeting people and going places. The inclusive energy of the Social type can help their partners feel safe. This can be a very good thing indeed for the Self Pres person, to be supported in leaving, at least temporarily, the duties and responsibilities of work, home, and children. It’s easy for Self Pres people to get bogged down in household tasks and miss out on having fun.
When it comes to travel, some Self Pres types need help in getting out of the house, leaving what is familiar and comfortable and safe. Your average Social type doesn’t worry so much about what to bring, if there will be enough to eat, if the bed has the right size or firmness. They can support their Self Pres partners by encouraging a sense of adventure and finding security in the relationship rather than in material supplies.
This works the other way around as well. Some Self Pres people are great travelers, and they seem to be able to go anywhere and meet and talk with people, even without being “properly introduced.” They can support their social partners in loosening up, not worrying so much about the rules, connecting with people around things as simple as food, homes, or children. As a social type myself I admire the way my Self Pres friends can engage people on the road with their warmth and friendliness, while I am more likely to get into an anti-social mood: “I don’t know anybody here, I don’t know what the rules are, I don’t know if I will be accepted.”
In particular, Social types appreciate their Self Pres partners for providing a sense of security and primary well-being. It’s great to have a secure home and relationship to return to after participating in the outside world. Self Pres types offer the warmth and nurture that is not always available in social relationships; they make sure that there is “enough” of everything; they take care of physical safety, privacy and boundaries. Social types need some limits! Friends are important, but Social types often “forget” that friends can’t or won’t be there in the same way as partners and family members for their most personal needs related to financial security, health, raising kids, etc. Their Self Pres partners can challenge them on their tendency to get overextended. And they support the partner in all matters of self care: eating right, resting, going to the doctor and dentist. What a great thing for Social type partners: having this kind of love, security and a “ground to stand on.”
Social with Social
The most important issue for this pair is negotiating the intimate relationship. The intensity of the One-to-ones can feel demanding, even overwhelming to their Self Pres partners. It’s not that the Self Pres types don’t want intimacy, but the pacing is different. While One-to-ones seem able to dive right in to intimate contact, Self Pres types generally need some time to get there. If they feel that their boundaries are not respected, or the partner becomes impatient, they will shut down and divert their attention to what seem like necessary tasks. The house needs to be cleaned, the shopping needs to get done, the business requires more energy and attention – there is simply no time to hang out. “How is this one-to-one stuff productive? We could be accomplishing important household tasks, or working harder to create financial security.” This can result from simply a different style, or it can mean something deeper. The Self Pres partner may have deep resistance to entering the intimate space; they may have anxiety about performing. “Can I meet the expectations of my spouse? Can I really get there and stay there with them, or will I be a disappointment? What if the sex isn’t good enough? How can I get them to slow down? Will I end up feeling rejected? Will I end up hurting their feelings?”
The One-to-one type often does feel impatient with their partner. They are eager to experience a direct connection, the feeling of union, and they can feel hurt or angry if their partner doesn’t reciprocate. The Self Pres partner seems dispersed in their attention, or disinterested. “How can you possibly regard the shopping, cooking, or spending time with family members as more important than me, your beloved partner? I want to be with you, don’t you want to be with me?” Perhaps the One-to-one partner withdraws, or perhaps they redouble their efforts. But without tuning into the needs and the different pacing of the partner, this will lead to increased conflict.
Especially if the Self Pres partner is feeling stressed by work or taking care of the kids, their partner’s demands may seem selfish.
On the other hand, the Self Pres partner, with their attention on security, supplies and comfort, can also appear selfish or self absorbed. This may be more than just the biased view of the One-to-one partner. To the degree that Self Pres types have unresolved security issues from childhood, these will keep them emotionally and instinctually occupied. They may lose interest in the partner as an individual, relating to them only as a “security object.” They may not notice, or care, that sexual intimacy has become infrequent or absent entirely. This does not bode well for the relationship in the long run. Many a Self Pres spouse has been shocked to find their partner’s attention has moved out of the relationship to people who can meet their intimacy needs (whether or not this involves sexual relations).
The solution is not to vilify the partner, who has “broken the rules,” but to take time for some serious self-evaluation. Do you really want the partner as a lover and intimate, or do you just expect them to hang in there as a companion in householding? What would it take for you to show up, to re-establish the sexual connection? Are you willing to spend time and effort on being attractive, staying in shape, raising the level of sexual energy in your own body?
The One-to-one spouse is responsible for communicating their needs gently and consistently, not giving up on the intimate and sexual part of the relationship. For Self Pres types, the appetite of their more intense partners can feel insatiable. Limits help to create safety. The Self Pres partner is more likely to enter the intimate space if they know it’s not open-ended, that they can step back after a certain amount of time. This applies both to short interactions in daily life, even a few minutes here and there, and to longer times in bed together.
Self Pres types put a higher value on calm and comfort, while the One-to-one tends to run a hotter, more intense energy. It’s hard to talk about this – it’s subtle, and we don’t have much language for it. Both types will benefit with a practice of sensing their physical body and learning to manage their internal state. In fact, they both have much to learn from one another. Self Pres types can practice increasing their energy and focusing it on their partner, while One-to-ones can learn to calm down and approach more carefully.
When Self Pres people are feeling pressured by the attention of the partner, it’s important to ask for space in a friendly way: “Could you back off a little, or give me some space?” This depends on catching the feeling of intrusion early on and not waiting until you are feeling backed into a corner, or when the level of irritation is high. Staying in touch with one’s own physical sensations helps prevent being overwhelmed or “taken over” by the partner.
Another way that One-to-one types alarm their partners is with their intense, seemingly intimate, connections with other people. Without enough security, a Self Pres type can become jealous. “What are they doing? Why are they excluding me? Are they planning an affair?” This can lead to the One-to-one type feeling that their partner wants to keep them in a smaller space, to control or diminish their relationships with other people. The solution is good communication and the willingness to ask for what you need without blame. They aren’t doing it to you deliberately – it’s a subtype issue!
Either partner in this couple may have reasons for spending much of their time and attention outside the relationship. A Self Pres type may be the main wage earner with long hours at work, leaving their One-to-one partner feeling neglected. Or the Self Pres partner may be at home taking care of the kids and household tasks feeling resentful while the partner is out having more exciting experiences with other people. Sometimes a Self Pres type feels burdened by all the responsibility for their partner’s well being. What works is for each partner to step into the territory of the other and help each other feel accompanied and valued. Even in a busy life, a little bit can go a long way!
Suggestions for the Self Pres type:
• Communicate your boundaries gently; let your partner know that you are interested and attracted, but will get there at another time. Establish a language of words and gestures that keeps the intimate connection without having to drop what you are doing.
• Explore your resistance to a more intense style of intimacy and take steps to work on it – you and your relationship are worth spending the time and money. Practice putting aside worries about family, work, finances, etc. for periods of time while you focus entirely on your partner. If you find it helpful, propose a time frame with a clear limit.
• Practice building a higher energetic charge in your body, sustaining more felt energy and pleasure. Take time for exercise and self care. Support yourself in feeling both sexually attractive and attracted.
• Make time for romance – activity for just the two of you, including gazing and touching as well as sex. Call or check in with your partner regularly to let them know you are thinking about them. Put this on your list, or calendar.
• Encourage your partner to have close friends outside the partner relationship, not as a way to escape or compensate for lack of intimacy, but to provide more resources for one-to-one contact.
• Realize that your partner won’t entirely share your priorities for home or family activities. Be prepared for discussion and perhaps disagreement, and avoid taking it personally. Explore your needs and pick what is most important, then ask for help or companionship with those. Let the other stuff go.
Suggestions for the One-to-One type:
• Let your partner have space for their important activities and routines even if they don’t make a lot of sense to you. Don’t interpret this as personal rejection. Allow them more time to make decisions; present the issue and wait a while.
• Give your partner lots of appreciation for their resourcefulness and how they take care of the family and material environment.
• Join them in self preservation activities to the extent that you can (without getting resentful). Instead of just going through the motions, keep a caring attitude so they will feel connected and supported, even in the most mundane tasks. Remind them of when and how you do this.
• Make a continuing effort to get your intimacy needs met by your partner, challenge them for the good of the relationship, rather than simply dispersing your need for intense contact among other people.
• Respect their pacing and give them time to adjust in entering the intimate space. Support them in clearing or putting aside external worries, or help them finish work or household tasks before becoming intimate. Reassure them that they are more than adequate as a lover. Try not to communicate disappointment around their (possibly) shorter attention span. Hold the attitude that things can deepen with practice.
• Appreciate the ways that your partner shows their love, and let go of wanting what they can’t provide. Keep in mind that your partner may enjoy and derive comfort from your presence even without much direct interaction. Be willing to compromise.
These two subtypes make a great combination in a long-term relationship. Self Pres partners have the capacity to bring stability, security, and groundedness. They naturally want to create a warm and comfortable home environment, well supplied with material resources and good meals. Given that One-to-one types have been known to forget to eat, this is a great thing! The more awake Self Pres types will also have more attention for self-care at all levels, from having rest to making medical appointments. Other subtypes report that they feel nurtured and supported for their physical health and well-being. Often it’s simply the embodied presence of the Self Pres partner that has a soothing and calming affect on the more intense One-to-one, who can use help in conserving their energy (and preserving themselves). While it’s a bit of a cliché, Self Pres people are usually great around the house in terms of fixing things, or managing plumbers, painters, and handymen. They also lead the way in terms of financial planning, insurance, retirement – areas that One-to-ones may put off or ignore entirely.
Beyond the physical things, Self Pres people provide a caring container for their One-to-one partners in the emotional and psychological sense. As long as they don’t get locked into the role of caretaker or “Good Mother” they will bring their partner into a space of love and connection that is grounded in the body and the rhythms of family life. They bring a different style, and indeed there is a positive aspect of the Self Pres people resisting the “urge to merge” of their partners. They don’t need the undivided attention of their partner all the time, so attention stays available for other important people in the family and the community. One-to-ones will find the opportunity to expand their way of relating in family gatherings, neighborhood events and many kinds of shared activities that do not have the same intense one-to-one charge (perhaps less exciting, but also less draining). Many Self Pres partners demonstrate large amounts of self reliance. They pride themselves on being competent in many areas of life, especially those related to surviving and thriving. When they are secure inside they can give their partners room to come and go without a demand for constant companionship.
The One-to-one partner by contrast brings a focus on the “you and me.” With their intense style of relating, they value their partner as a lover and intimate, not just someone who provides material security or housework. They can raise the energy level of the relationship with their vitality, quest for excellence, and romantic feelings focused on the partner. They want to take things deeper, more personal, more intimate. What a great thing for the Self Pres to repeatedly receive this invitation, to take a break from all their pressing work activities or household tasks and gain access to a place where they are loved for who they are rather than for what they provide. In this way, the One-to-one type brings the partner to an experience of intimacy where they can feel secure and protected.
Social with One-to-One
As with other relationships between people of the same subtype, there are both advantages and dangers. There’s no reason why two social types can’t be very successful in their intimate relationship, but it takes work. Other subtype combinations often look at two socials together and ask, “Where’s the glue, where’s the bonding?” My answer is there’s plenty, and we can draw upon all three instincts – we’re not limited to our primary subtype all the time. We social types can switch gears too!
I’m a social Eight married to a social Four, and we find a lot in common when it comes to talking about people and groups, and being part of organizations that are important to us (like the Enneagram networks). However, my wife Pat is introverted while I fall more on the extroverted side. So we don’t always have smooth sailing in social situations when it comes to deciding how often, how many people, and how long. (Yes, there are plenty of introverted social types).
We also have many examples of how our “anti-social” qualities have gotten in our way. One year we set out to join a new church, and explored a number of places. We very much wanted to belong to a caring community. But everywhere we went we found reasons why it wouldn’t work for us: not properly organized, not set up to receive new people, and on and on. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so painful. Really it was mostly about our social anxiety and rigid expectations, which we projected onto these organizations. The point is that we reinforced our subtype pattern in a negative sense. It would have been a lot easier with a Self Pres or a One-to-one type on hand to bring a different perspective, and likely they would connected more quickly with people without worrying about the rules and structure. (We worked it out, more or less, with the help of some serious self-assessment on our subtype issues).
When two social types pair up, home tends to serve more as a social center than a place of nurture. Attention does not go easily to vital self preservation functions. Bookkeeping, paying bills, or even planning for financial security gets put off or neglected entirely. Remembering to shop for food, budgeting time for meal preparation, or even enjoying being in the kitchen may not come easily. (Self Pres people might be horrified with the lack of concern here, but somehow we manage to feed ourselves and our families!) Social types are just more interested in other things; meals are a necessary break from other activities, seldom a goal in itself. (Although we do appreciate being invited over to dinner by our Self Pres friends – there’s both good food and social contact).
I remember one person’s astonished response when I described how at a party we like to sit down with people in a circle in the living room and talk together as a group. She said: “That’s not a party, it’s a meeting!” We’ve learned that it’s important not to impose our style on our guests, although for celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries we still try to get everyone together and hold the group space, at least for a few minutes.
The overdoing of the social instinct will be reinforced and magnified with this couple. They may spend too much time thinking about other people’s relationships, whether they are accepted in social groups, and doing their social “duty.” Too much dutifulness leads to obligation and decreases fun and spontaneity. They have to follow the rules, do the right thing, with a kind of shared, social type “super-ego.” And it’s all too easy to feel embarrassed when the partner isn’t “doing it right.”
Agreement is not always helpful. When social rules, social duty and the need to fit in are completely mirrored by the partner, the result can be a stifling conformity. Instead of having one’s individuality overshadowed by a strong family orientation (like the Self Pres types), it is diminished by the more rigid aspects of social belonging. Everyone is impacted by the mores and expectations of their community. But two socials will feel this much more keenly. How much of one’s self, what parts of one’s self, will be sacrificed in order to keep one’s good standing in the community, to maintain the approval of the group? This is not necessarily a conscious process, although it should be if we are concerned about our development as individuals. Becoming too “successful” as a social type couple may prevent or at least impede the work of individuation. It’s not unusual for people in midlife, or later, to discover that they have settled into a comfortable arrangement (in this case ruled by social instinct) that rewards conformity and keeps them from “rocking the boat.” If one partner starts to break out of the container, or significantly change the agreements (stated or unstated), the partner may experience considerable social shame and embarrassment. Worrying about “what the neighbors or people at church will say” and losing social standing and prestige is not the best way to make decisions about an intimate relationship.
The other main issue, no surprise here, is that two Socials may neglect spending significant one-to-one time together. If they don’t take care to schedule dates, just the two of them, not with kids or friends, it just won’t happen. It’s amazing how this can “fall off the screen.” My wife regularly complains that I don’t take her on dates. This may be a common complaint in a marriage, but for a Social type it’s compounded. Social gatherings are not an adequate substitute. Every intimate relationship requires quality time to get to know and to stay in close contact with the partner’s thoughts, dreams, and hopes.
Suggestions for two Social types in relationship:
• Make special dates to go off with each other alone on a regular basis. Resist the impulse to add friends and make it a group. Make direct eye contact, breath deeply and build the energetic charge between you. Practice staying there longer and welcome whatever happens.
• Take time to do household tasks together: clean the house, work on the bookkeeping and bills, prepare a meal. (Not just before visitors or a party).
• Notice when your anti-social tendencies and beliefs reinforce one another and lead to excessive judgment of others or withdrawal from people who operate differently.
• Try not to be overly critical about groups or organizations that aren’t doing it “right.” You can find connections with individuals there if you are not caught up in the reactivity of your subtype.
So far this Social with Social relationship may sound quite serious and dry. But there are blessings here as well. It’s great to have a partner who shares your sense of purpose and meaning, and can see the wider world outside the home and family. Social types are mystified by people who don’t seem to have any sense of responsibility or duty to the community and to the larger world. Other subtypes focus on these issues, at least some of them, but Socials understand one another here better.
Social types can be very good at supporting the partner in having their own friends and groups. They take pleasure in hearing about their separate activities and their path of development. The process of individuation is welcomed. There is less of a need to control or to limit the partner to the family or to the marriage itself; rather these are strengthened by the small separations of daily life and returning with new ideas and experiences to share. New friends and new groups expand the horizons of the couple beyond the limitations of the immediate family. Each partner can be quite comfortable participating in the world alone or together.
Two Social types can be very tuned in when participating with groups; they make sure that everyone is included and support each person in bringing forward their contribution. They see new comers as potential friends, whatever their family background or situation. Two social types working together can create an organized and welcoming group experience, linking together very disparate people to enlarge the social circle.
When Social types are in balance, they have plenty of attention for their partner and home life. Their sexual energy is not dispersed but stays collected and available. As companions sharing similar interests and activities, they have resources which support them in weathering the ups and downs of daily life and which help them return to their intimate bonds.
One-to-One with One-to-One
Imagine how for this couple, the different placement of attention in daily life creates both benefits and problems. (Or perhaps you know this first hand!) Enneagram teachers describe Social energy as “around, out, and diffused” versus One-to-one energy which is more “in, collected, and focused,” a Social flood light versus a One-to-one spot light.
The social type’s focus tends to be more dispersed among friends, social groups, and social activities. The One-to-one partner may also have friends, in fact their friendships may be very important to them, but they will depend on their partner for regular, deep contact. Not a bad thing for social types, who can appreciate the intimacy that their partner insists on. The predictable areas of conflict have to do with how much time and attention goes where. The One-to-one’s need for their style of relating may start out as an invitation, turn into a demand, and end with an accusation if the Social type (or Self Pres type) is not paying enough attention.
Even when the Social type values one-to-one relating, they will have to make an effort to gather their attention and increase the level of intensity to satisfy the partner. Being “friends” with the partner is not enough. One-to-one types get frustrated with anything less than full-on relating, and may feel that their partner prefers to stay in more “shallow waters.” With practice, social types can get there, go deeper, and enjoy the contact. What One-to-ones can keep in mind is that the union state is frightening at times, although the partner may not say so directly. The Social type has to go down underneath some layers of personality, to open up and relinquish part of their type structure. They are more likely to associate this with being in bed, having sex, having time and safety. It’s confusing to them when the partner seems to expect this level of intimacy during other times, or (seemingly) all the time.
When the partner’s need for attention is more than the Social type wants to meet, or feels able to meet, the Social type can end up experiencing both a sense of inadequacy and a sense of being trapped. Will he or she buy into the “all or nothing” style of the partner, feeling that expectations of the partner are impossible to meet? If blame is to be assigned, maybe the Social type is deficient in some way, too shallow or too unavailable. This can reverse direction as well. Perhaps the Social type will blame the One-to-one partner for being too needy, lacking in self regard, unable to take care of themselves. The Social type needs to take special care not to make their partner wrong for needing intense, sustained, and frequent intimate contact. Sometimes the Social partner will be able to get there and show up; other times they won’t be able to (or won’t have time to) and can take responsibility for that.
The One-to-one partner has a difficult balance. They have every right to pursue their needs for contact and intimacy. Their job is to communicate what they want in a non-judgmental way and keep some flexibility about timing and pacing. It’s a big challenge to stay on the threshold of contact, or come back repeatedly, if the partner is not quickly available and responsive. The amount of contact, the when and where, must be negotiated. But to be happy in a relationship the One-to-ones absolutely need this intense connection and their Social partners must pay attention.
It’s important to know that the One-to-ones are not always “right” and the Socials “wrong” in the area of intimacy, although it can seem like this. After all, aren’t those One-to-ones more available, more open, more capable? Not necessarily! The One-to-ones bring all their personal issues to the table, or to the bedroom, like everybody else. At times, they will come from a place of not feeling whole and needing their partner to fix this. This kind of projection is hard to recognize and hard to talk about, but the partner will feel they are being objectified and not personally seen, no matter how much the One-to-one insists differently. The challenge is to take embodied responses such as irritations, physical contractions and unhappy feelings and bring them into awareness, sort them out as best as possible, and then communicate them to the partner in a friendly way. If a Social type feels deficient or chronically “one down” in the area of intimacy, they will be less able to speak up when something doesn’t feel right.
Social types accuse their One-to-one partners (and intimate friends) of never being satisfied and having to have it their way. They say “I’m here making contact with you but you’re still not happy with me; apparently I’m not doing it right, or doing it enough. This makes me want to give up trying!” Better for Social types to show up as much as they can and assert the value of what they have to give. If the Social type is responsible for creating all the boundaries, this will lead to long term resentment on both sides.
In the social arena, different styles of relating can lead to conflict. Social types are very invested in belonging, membership and position in groups or society. This is just plain disturbing to the One-to-ones. “Why aren’t you primarily focused on me? How can you find so much personal meaning and value outside the relationship?” They can sense when the attention of their social partner moves out to other people. When a Social type enters a group, their attention circulates around the room to check out what’s happening with everyone and assess the situation in terms of inclusion, structure, power dynamics, etc. And they continue to circulate while they are there, seeking contact with a number of people and often not “remembering” to touch base with their partner. Many a One-to-one person has felt abandoned by this behavior and they do not take this lightly. The partner will undoubtedly hear about it. On their side, the Social person can start to feel trapped. It seems the partner wants to possess them, control them, scrutinize their every move.
When they are tuned in, Social types know that their One-to-one spouses need to be checked in with and paid attention to. The benefit is having their wonderful partner with them, next to them, in the group. What better combination for a Social type? And if they forget to stay connected, reparations can usually be made by scheduling a hot date just for two and vowing to pay more attention at the next social event. (Socials – resist the temptation to add more people to the date!)
This does not mean that jealousy or possessiveness is a one way street. Socials can feel threatened by the quick, intimate contact their partners make with others. “Why did you spend all evening talking to that other man/woman? You were flirting outrageously, and the sexual energy was so thick you could cut it with a knife! Everybody there noticed what you were doing and I felt humiliated.” This One-to-one style can set off and re-ignite any insecurities felt by the Social type. What they’d really like is for their intense partner to turn it down a bit, or at least reserve their heat for people who are seen as safe. Of course the One-to-ones want to seek out the most energetic or attractive person to connect with, even though it’s not their intention to pull them into a sexual relationship (unless it is). Now they are the ones feeling controlled by a jealous partner, once again hearing the message that they have to shut down their energy and not follow their interest. Why bother to come to the event in the first place if you’re just supposed to sit around being superficial and bored?
Just as Social types will feel stretched by their partner’s invitation to intimacy, the One-to-one type will often need support for stepping into the social world of their partner. Many One-to-ones (not all) experience insecurity in social situations or structured groups. It’s not something they can handle with their usual tracking system – how can you be one-to-one with this many people? They depend on the partner to help them feel safe, OK, and grounded.
Suggestions for the Social type:
• Don’t assume that your One-to-one partner wants to control you when she or he is tracking you closely. It’s often simply their way of staying connected. When you need to take your personal space and get out from under their intense gaze, frame it as your need and not a reaction to them.
• Strike a balance of social time with one-to-one time. Accept some limitations on your social activity for the benefit of your primary relationship. Be sure to check in with your partner about their need for face to face contact. Schedule time for just the two of you and put intimacy (and sex) on the agenda. Practice initiating instead of just responding.
• Communicate what you need for transitioning into intimate contact. If you feel rushed, or experience your partner making urgent demands, take responsibility for your reactions and avoid blaming your partner. Let her or him know that you are definitely interested in connecting but need to approach it a different way.
• When you are in social gatherings be sure to touch base with your partner and let them know they are important. Make agreements to do this ahead of time. Give support and appreciation when they join you in activities with others, especially in structured situations where they may not “know the ropes.” Don’t expect them to fit into groups as easily as you do.
• Acknowledge honestly your inability to always supply the intensity the One-to-one seeks, and do your best to mobilize your own One-to-one instinct by increasing both your energetic charge (breathing deeply helps) and staying focused on them. Practice making and sustaining direct eye contact. Resist the impulse to diffuse or circulate your attention.
• Give appreciation for the special gifts of your One-to-one partner, their capacity for intensity and intimate contact, and how they draw you back to this wonderful aspect of relationship. Tell them that they are the most important person in your life. (Do this often).
Suggestions for the One-to-one type:
• Talk to your partner directly about your needs for one on one attention. Be as specific as you can in terms of time, focus, eye contact, etc. Remember that it may take time and practice for them to be able to meet you fully. Be patient, and be a good leader.
• When you feel hurt or neglected, don’t give up on your partner. Do your best to communicate without blaming or giving them the message that they are inadequate. Hold the position that you both have the capacity for sustained, intimate contact. Keep the faith!
• Take time for activities and friendships which support you emotionally and creatively. Don’t place all your expectations for contact, wholeness, or transcendence on your partner. You will get more of the deep, intimate contact you seek when you come from a place of being already nurtured, centered, and self expressed.
• Don’t take it personally when your Social partner pursues social projects and their network of friends. Give them space to do this and/or join them when you can. At the same time, help them consider more carefully their social involvements before they say “yes” and support them around not becoming overextended.
• Practice noticing when your partner, friends or family members are giving you signals that the contact is too intense or too much, and pull yourself back into your own space. Use the centering exercises of sensing your own body, breathing deeply, feeling your feet on the floor or your back against the chair.
• When you are in social situations with your partner, ask for the support you need to feel included and stay relaxed. Mediate your “zeroing in” with someone fascinating. Include your partner when you are engaged in an intense one on one connection with another by turning your body to include them, making eye contact, moving your attention back and forth.
The benefits of this pairing are many. The Social type feels seen and loved for who they are as an individual (not just one of the group). They value the invitation to join their partner in the intimate space. This is a great balance for Social types who tend to lose themselves in overdoing group activities and spreading themselves too thin. There is a wonderful place to come home to in the presence of the partner. Here they have the opportunity for deeper contact beyond what is available socially, and in this connection they further develop their capacity not only for intimacy but also connecting with their own inner self. In slowing down and relaxing their “social persona” with their partner the Social type can find a path of personal growth and development that they might not otherwise discover. Their partner provides an anchor for opening up to emotions, physical sensation, and even spiritual experiences. One-to-ones want the whole thing, connection at all levels, and can lead their partner there once safety and trust have been established.
For One-to-ones, having a Social type partner can expand their world and break the one-on-one trance. A Social is less likely to merge, or stay merged, in ways that are regressive (as in de-structuring the adult ego and losing sight of important agendas). They have other relationships and activities that support them. They don’t entirely depend on their partner for a secure sense of self, which can be freeing for the One-to-one type. Instead of seeking wholeness/completion entirely through the relationship, they have other ways to find their center and individuality. This alternation of intimate contact and separate activity can strengthen and develop both people.
At their best, these two types can access deep intimacy while staying connected to friends and activities in the larger community. They have both worlds. In particular, the Social type can help their partner open up to new experiences, new people, and bring forth their contribution to the world. Through participating with groups who have agendas and causes One-to-ones learn the benefits of social duty and generosity and they get to have fun with people in new kinds of ways. (Sometimes even One-to-ones get tired of having to be so personally deep and intense all the time).
It’s not always the Social partner who brings the One-to-one into a larger world. However, there are plenty of One-to-ones who are extended far into the world having intense experiences with people, physical adventures, and work projects. They can share these exciting activities with their Social partners and help them let go of being confined in social structures where roles are defined and relatively static. At the same time, the Social types bring the quality of weaving people together in a network of meaningful relationships, so that it’s not all a series of disconnected if intense experiences. When the two types come together and cooperate well, there is the possibility of both spontaneous adventure and grounded community.
Part 1: Overview
What are the challenges for two people with this subtype? We might think that this would be the most suitable and successful pairing possible. After all, who can meet the need for intensity and intimacy better than another One-to-one type? It’s true that there is a strong commonality here. Both partners have natural understanding of each other’s needs in relationship. But if you are in such a relationship, you know that there are problems none the less.
The most obvious issue is a tendency to over-merge, to lose one’s individuality while attempting to sustain a state of union in daily life. Or we could also say, to have all of one’s energy and attention spent on either merging or dealing with the reactivity that arises when merging does not happen. This is easy to fall into when both partners in a relationship agree so fully on the same goal. What else is could be so important, so compelling? All of the one-to-one issues are magnified.
Intimate relationships are inherently regressive, meaning that as we open ourselves to the experience of intimacy we let down our ego defenses and relax our character structure. We access the feelings and sensations of our inner child and the history of our relationship with our parents. It’s all too easy to form unconscious transference on our partner. “They should be the good mommy or daddy who loves us completely and unconditionally.” But when they don’t fulfill this expectation, we have strong reactions. Everyone, whatever their subtype, deals with this in intimate relationship. But it’s the One-to-one types who take the lead on this issue since they believe that the partner should be the major (or total) source of love.
My understanding is that “transference” is necessary, that without it we wouldn’t have enough basic attraction. In my experience there is no better context for working through early childhood issues and healing our wounds than an intimate relationship with someone who loves us dearly. From this point of view, the One-to-one’s have an advantage. But this process needs psychological awareness and practice. Without it, things devolve quickly.
The over-investment in the partner, the jealousy, can result in terrible suffering. When this is acted out, cruelty and violence are possible. It’s just harder for this subtype to let go of the partner, and when two people of this subtype get into righteous rage and blame, extra care must be taken to keep things safe and bounded. One-to-ones themselves describe how their intensity can become explosive and destructive.
Sometimes a partner will lose themselves for a time and then vigorously push away. There’s not much middle ground, or so it seems. “I have to get away from you in order to find myself again.” The all or nothing style can make for dramatic scenes as partners come and go. Negotiating the rhythms of contact and separation is not easy.
Both people can be aware of this danger yet still be overwhelmed by the surge of feelings and sensations in their bodies. There is often great ambivalence. “I want the experience of union, but I don’t want to give up my boundaries right now. Or I have things do to, important tasks that cannot be achieved from a merged consciousness.” Will both partners fall into this merged state, or will one resist, driving the other into increasingly desperate efforts to connect?
When merging is taken to an extreme, and other relationships are de-valued and neglected, we see a “cult of two.” Who needs friends or other people when we can have such a great merged experience, just the two of us. We have all known people who when in the throes of a new love relationship, withdraw from friends and family. They no longer return our phone calls, they won’t come out to play, all their attention is focused on the new relationship. Or maybe we recognize having been in this state ourselves. It’s a natural tendency in romance. It’s the excitement of having an intimate partner who is so close and bonded, who re-creates the experience of a blissful unitive state with our mothers that we have experienced, and perhaps painfully lost, when we were young. One-to-one types have to watch out for being so dependent on the partner that they avoid participating in the broader world.
It’s not uncommon for this couple to neglect self preservation issues, as in not placing enough attention on home and self care. I vividly recall talking about home life with a One-to-one couple in a long term relationship (without children). Combining careers in real estate with interior design, they had renovated a large old house in the city and made it look stunning, including an awesome modern kitchen with all the latest appliances. But they never cooked! “Why spend time cooking when we are so busy and there are so many great restaurants in the neighborhood?” My reply, “Well, it might be useful as a conscious practice every once in a while to spend time preparing and eating food in your own home. This way you get to develop your self preservation instinct plus you can invite your friends to join you in your beautiful home to share a meal.” This was received with some interest but also puzzlement. The situation changed later with the arrival of a new baby and a Self Pres grandmother. The couple may not be cooking, but at least that wonderful kitchen is being used and the self preservation instinct is alive and well.
Suggestions for One-to-one types in relationship:
• Take breaks when intensity heightens; ground, center, and do reality checks before coming back together. Check to see what you can do to access the feeling of wholeness in yourself. It’s not your partner’s responsibility to make you feel whole.
• Broaden your view to include the possibility that satisfaction can come from the outside world and other people, not just your primary relationship. Develop activities which engage and express your creativity and/or spirituality; at the same time don’t use them as a way to avoid your partner for long periods of time.
• Structure time apart; you might not feel like doing this, but it will help over time. Give reassurance and support for claiming separateness: “Individuality serves our connection.”
• Support and actively encourage other relationships for both yourself and your partner. Remember that your jealousy or attempt to control your partner will diminish your relationship. Invest in your friendships, even with Self Pres and Social types, who have other kinds of resources to contribute. Broaden your ways of being with people. Stay aware of boundaries with your One-to-one friends.
• Take care of yourself! Spend time in places and activities that nurture your self preservation instinct and sense of well being – alone and together. Pay attention to your “energy management,” and create practices for calming down and self-soothing.
Here is the potential for both people to feel fully met by another person who shares their need for union, who is not afraid of going there, and is capable of the intensity and one-to-one focus that makes this possible. Instead of feeling threatened or overwhelmed they know how to say “yes” to each other’s life force as expressed through personal vitality and personal contact. Both partners have a compelling drive for intimacy, and this rarely gets put on the back shelf for long. There is a strong interpersonal process of sharing, communicating, and working things out. They know immediately when there’s something in the way, when the partner has drifted off (such keen sensitivity!), and they know something about how to bring them back.
Two people of this subtype want to go “all the way.” They are courageous in facing obstacles and are willing to pursue life-long learning which develops their relationship. This can be in the areas of psychology and psychotherapy, or in the context of religion and spiritual development. It’s been my experience that at every Enneagram gathering – conference, workshop, training – the One-to-one group has been the largest (with only one or two exceptions in 30 years). I don’t think this is because this subtype is the most numerous (I’d say Self Preservation people are); but the One-to-ones seem the most interested and the most driven to reach some larger state of ego transcendence. They are less satisfied with the “ordinary.” When two One-to-ones are able to get past possessiveness and competitiveness, they provide great support for on another on the path of growth.
When the One-to-one couple is balanced, once the drama and intensity is well managed, each person will normally take a leading role in the other instinctual territories. e.g. One may be more social while the other focuses on home and family. They will take on some of the characteristics of the other subtypes to be sure, but they will retain their high energy and vitality in these other tasks and relationships with friends and family. Everyone around them will benefit from this well harnessed energy and enthusiasm, since their major drive for one on one relating is being satisfied and is no longer a dissatisfaction that enters every part of life. With their primary needs met, their generosity expands and they offer their hospitality, inviting all of us into a space where individuality is welcomed and honored. One-to-ones in relationship with each other often feel that their quest for a soulmate is fulfilled. They feel deeply connected to their beloved on many levels, and the connection is internalized to such a degree that it persists across time and space. Even in the physical absence of the partner there is still a deeply felt bond. There are always plenty of developmental challenges, things to work on, but at their best this couple will be secure in the knowledge that they have found their destiny. Life is complete.
Part 2: (Source)
Part 3: Sub-Types Summary